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Let's put into action 'God's plan' so that the world might believe

Archbishop's homily at Synod closing Mass

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Archbishop Thomas Wenski's image is projected onto one of two large screens during the Synod closing Mass, which was broadcast live by EWTN and livestreamed on the websites of the Archdiocese of Miami and Radio Paz 830 AM.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski's image is projected onto one of two large screens during the Synod closing Mass, which was broadcast live by EWTN and livestreamed on the websites of the Archdiocese of Miami and Radio Paz 830 AM.

“Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations.” 

This Scripture verse has been called the “Great Commission” – and with these words, Jesus has given us what should be our strategic plan. We are called to be “faithful disciples and missionaries of hope.” The Church exists for no other reason but to evangelize. 

So, you might want to ask, if “Go make disciples of all nations” is our strategic plan, then why did we need a Synod? The purpose of our Synod here in Miami was simply to examine what we must do as a community of faith to put into action, as Blessed John Paul II said in Novo Millenio Ineunte, "the plan found in the Gospel and the living tradition to make Christ known, loved and imitated so that in Him we may live the life of the Trinity and with Him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem." 

The hoped for fruit of our Synod – through the implementations of its many recommendations - is to help all of us, priests, deacons, religious and members of Christ’s faithful, to become more faithful disciples and thus missionaries of hope – of a hope that, because it is centered in Christ, will not disappoint. 

Archbishop Thomas Wenski listens to the Gospel during the Synod closing Mass.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski listens to the Gospel during the Synod closing Mass.

The crisis of our times can be described as a crisis of hope. Many people – in our communities, in our nation, in our world — are angry; many people are fearful; too many others are despairing. The social problems of our age betray this hopelessness – can we not say that drug abuse, promiscuity, divorce and the breakup of the family, abortion, are all symptomatic of a loss of hope? A person who would poison himself through drug abuse is someone who has no hope for himself. A mother who would kill the fruit of her womb has lost hope in the future – for children are the hope of the future. The exclusion of God promoted in the ideologies of the past century – whether of the collectivist bent of communism or of the individualist bent of consumerism – offer humanity only false hopes. This crisis has led to closing of the human heart and mind to the Infinite, it has led to a loss of the sense of transcendence – to the fact that we are called to something more than this life, that we were made for more than just to die one day. Even the abuse and manipulation of religion, as we see among the terrorists, reveals the despair of a world that has forgotten its proper relationship to its Creator.

Lest we be daunted by the challenges before us, Christ assures us that he remains with us – till the end of time. Thus, like Peter on the Sea of Galilee, we confidently “put out into the deep” because it is the Lord who tells us to. As Pope Francis writes in Lumen Fidei, “In faith, in Him, in his word is found the way not only to eternal happiness but also to build already a future worthy of man on this earth.” (Lumen Fidei)

So how do we do this? How do we fulfill this “Great Commission” which we have received by virtue of our baptism? To paraphrase St. Paul: For people to call on God, they need to believe in Him. For them to believe in Him, they need to hear of Him. For people to hear of Him, someone needs to tell them about Him. For someone to tell of Him, they need to be sent out to do so.

The theme of our Synod and our pastoral plan is “Disciples in Faith, Missionaries of Hope.” With God's help and the continued active collaboration of our priests, deacons and all the members of Christ’s faithful, the implementation of the Synod’s priorities and goals promises to be the beginning of an exciting work of pastoral revitalization – so that through our efforts and with God’s grace, the world might believe.

We cannot be missionaries without growing in our discipleship and we cannot continue grow in our discipleship without accepting the call to be missionaries. We are called not to announce an idea or ideology but to be witnesses to a person, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, was buried and now has risen from the dead.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski consecrates the Eucharist with Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga at his side.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski consecrates the Eucharist with Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga at his side.

If we are to lead others to faith we must also grow in that faith ourselves. We will only be witnesses if we ourselves are committed disciples and coherent missionaries. Then, evangelization, preaching the Gospel, will mean simply sharing what we have experienced in the lived intimacy of our communion with Christ.

Incumbent on each one of us then is: the need to grow in our personal, living relationship with Christ and to assure that our parishes, schools and other ministries serve as “schools” of prayer and communion fostering that growth; the need to lead our fellow brothers and sisters to a new experience of holiness and abundant life in Christ; the need to share God’s love, by selflessly contributing our time, talent and treasure, to offer a future of hope to all, especially to those most in need.

Our plans for the next several years will provide every one of us with opportunities to do that and much more. We will develop and share faith formation programs for all ages of disciples so that we can be more credible, confident witnesses of our faith. We will strengthen our sharing of the Gospel message better through our coordination of service and outreach activities. And as Catholic adults, we know that our most important missionary service is to the adults of tomorrow, the Catholics of today most in need of our authentic witness - our youth. 

In the midst of all the activities and programs we initiate, we must never lose sight of the fact that ultimately we are seeking to share God’s love, which requires our love. Yes, it requires your time, it requires your talents, and, of course, it may require your treasure, especially when your Archbishop asks. But it always requires your love. 

As Pope Francis has shown, the door to a person’s soul is the heart. Thus, the only expression of the Church that will convince a doubting and skeptical world is our love, a love that convinces the world only in the measure that it reflects and embodies the self-sacrificial, unconditional love of Jesus Christ

As Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now but yours.” Today, it is through our eyes that Christ looks with compassion on this world, it with our feet that he walks to do good, with our hands that he blesses the entire world. 

As we go forth to implement this pastoral plan, the plan in which we take up for this time and this place the challenge of the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations,” we must remind ourselves that ultimately this is not my plan – I am not foolish to think this or to think that I can do it by myself. It is our plan – and it is a product of much consultation and much collaboration and it will only be implemented if we continue walking together – and working together. But, more importantly, we must remember that just as we are the Church, but the Church is not ours but the Lord’s, so too, this is more than our plan it is his plan – and as he assures us in the Gospel reading today, he is with us always, “until the end of the age.” 

And so as we move forward, we keep in mind the words of the Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, who wrote in Deus Caritas Est: “In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: ‘The love of Christ urges us on.’” (2 Cor 5: 14). #35 Deus Caritas Est.
View of the altar during the Synod closing Mass.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

View of the altar during the Synod closing Mass.

Comments from readers

Brian Wade - 10/29/2013 03:19 PM
Thanks Archbishop Wenski for a magnificent Synod Closing Assembly Mass which communicated your concern for the local flock, interest of the Vatican in what you are doing and our connections to the global Church. Every best effort and gift was called upon and the "fullness of the priesthood" was apparent in so many ways. Thanks also to your priests and the gathered bishops.

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